This week I'm picking up where I left off in my conversation with Star Trek Online's lead writer, Christine "CrypticKestrel" Thompson. Join me past the jump to see what more she had to say about the challenges of writing within accepted canon as well as creating a more personal tale for STO players.
Thompson responded that she felt she had a little more freedom with the story arc with the new Romulan faction as every player's character starts from the same position -- as a member of a colony of survivors of the destruction of the Hobus supernova, which destroyed the planets of Romulus and Remus. Because there is such species diversity in both the Federation and Klingon factions, she couldn't really write character-specific dialogue between a player's captain and her crewmembers before the expansion. What a Trill crewmember might say would differ greatly from what a Vulcan might say. No personal tales could be interwoven into the existing Federation faction easily, and it took an enormous effort from Executive Producer Daniel Stahl and others to flesh out a more personal tale for the Klingon faction when they completed the first 24 levels of Klingon play.
Thompson was also taken with the idea that there are players who are blogging about or as their characters. She said, "The coolest thing about working on an MMO is seeing what the players do with it. Whether it be roleplaying or blogs or Foundry missions... taking that framework we've made and just expanding on it -- it's amazing! I love it!"
For the curious, she told me she is currently playing a Romulan engineer. She has two max-level Fed characters and one max-level Orion science officer on the Klingon side. When I asked her with which side she chose to ally her Romulan character, she told me that it is allied with the Federation, but she explained the choice was strictly "for the ships."
Next up we had a question from reader Nick Minecci, who asked, "Whose idea was it for [the player's character to be the one to take out Hakeev's eye?" After laughing, Thompson recalled that it was mostly her idea as a way to clarify that Hakeev was not a liberated Borg. She had been asked on so many occasions if his character was supposed to be a liberated Borg due to his eyepiece that she wrote the loss of his eye into the story script to settle the issue once and for all. She also admitted that it didn't hurt that the action turned into a great personal issue between the player's character and Hakeev.
Along that thought process, Thompson recalled that she listened to the commentary on one of the Star Trek films directed by Nicholas Meyer, who said something akin to, "Limitations cause creativity." She said maxim that stands very true for game design as well. She says they often have to make scenarios work within their engine, and when they work well, we end up with missions like Mind Games.
Thompson stated they started working on the Legacy of Romulus expansion in December of last year and worked on it constantly right up until launch. Cryptic had to give a period of time for QA to assure stability of the new material, and on the last day that she could do "check-in," she was still completing voice-over recordings.
I told Thompson that I am currently playing a Reman character in the game and that I was surprised that the dialogue I have come across didn't make me feel as though my character was separated from the story. I asked her if she found it a challenge to create dialogue that could cover both Romulan and Reman survivors. To my surprise, she told me that the reason so much of the dialogue seemed to cover a Reman player so well was because she "finally" got the capability to create dialogue by species. Because of that, depending on the player's species and whether the dialogue is available, a customized dialogue box can be triggered.
I'd like to thank Christine Thompson for her time and generosity when I visited Cryptic. Next week, (unless big news surprises us all), we'll chat with the art team. Until then, live long and prosper!
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